Don’t trust something this important to an amateur.
Last week I was contacted by a family who wanted to “spread dad’s ashes”. They had previously made arrangements with another pilot to do the scattering. For some reason it didn’t work out and now they were contacting me in a panic because the date was set and people were scheduled to come and be a part of the scattering.
After talking with the son of the deceased, I realized that the first pilot was not a professional. The pilot did not have the proper equipment, the right kind of airplane or an understanding of the correct paperwork. The family was fortunate it didn’t work out with that pilot, as things likely would have gone horribly wrong.
I could tell the pilot didn’t have the correct equipment because the client asked several times during our conversation if he needed to bring his own funnel. I assured him that, no, we are professionals, we have done this hundreds of times before, and that we have the proper scattering equipment.
I can only image what could have happened. Trying it without the proper equipment usually ends with the cremated remains back in the plane, all over the side of the plane, or worse (like in the eyes of the pilot). I can’t tell you how many pilots have told me their story of how they tried it and it didn’t go well. Unfortunately, you only get one chance to get it right.
The pilot also didn’t have the correct airplane. The client told me that he would need two separate flights in which they would spread half the ashes on each flight. I asked him why. He informed me that he and his sister were large people and they each wanted to participate in the scattering and that plane could only carry one of them at a time. I informed him that we use a twin-engine airplane that can accommodate his whole family (4) on one flight so they can perform the scattering together.
I asked the client if he had already obtained the burial permit for the scattering at sea. He said no, the other pilot told him he didn’t need a permit or any paperwork at all. I informed him that, in California, a burial permit was required, and scattering without it was against the law. Fortunately, I was able to obtain the correct paperwork in time for the flight.
Unfortunately this client’s experience isn’t unique. In my many years in the business, I have heard countless stories of pilot’s first attempts at scattering that do not go well. A quick Internet search will yield stories that are truly sad.
Each state has their own laws about when and where you can scatter cremated remains. In California, we are required to have written permission from the landowner or governing agency. It may be troublesome sometimes, but it prevents problems. I found this story that demonstrates why. A pilot (allegedly) “accidentally” scattered over a professional baseball stadium causing a terrorist scare and the hazmat squad to be called out.
Please don’t trust something this important to an amateur. You only get one chance to get it right. Scattering your loved ones cremated remains can be a beautiful memory that can last a lifetime. If done incorrectly, it can be a tragic experience that will haunt a family for a lifetime. Please look for someone who is a licensed, insured, and trained professional. Please contact us if you have any questions. (800) 407-6401.